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Pop Music Review

Jamiroquai Gets Feet Dancing at the Greek

July 09, 1999|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

The energetic audience at Jamiroquai's concert Wednesday at the Greek Theatre danced for nearly two hours with the kind of spirit you found at shows by such pop-soul masters as Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Quite a compliment--though it would be a bigger one if the English band's own songs weren't such echoes of those masters.

Even though the 10-piece outfit did an often remarkable job of re-creating the silky, funk-based sounds of '70s soul, you got the feeling even in the best moments--including the especially danceable "Alright"--that the crowd would love nothing better than for the group to break into some of its blueprints, such as Wonder's "Superstition."

It was a theory that proved correct when lead singer Jason Kay and Jamiroquai did a version of "Miss You," the Rolling Stones' tip of the hat to '70s dance grooves.

After the band's U.S. breakthrough in 1997 with the "Virtual Insanity" video (the one in which Kay wears that Mad Hatter hat), the challenge facing the group was to take its invigorating but derivative sound to another level.

Unfortunately, the new "Synkronized" album--whose songs were sprinkled throughout Wednesday's set--doesn't accomplish the goal. Except for the darker, Kraftwerkian elements in "Supersonic," the songs on "Synkronized" don't stake out new territory with any convincing edge.

Jamiroquai's chief asset remains Kay, an unusually likable and colorful frontman whose fierce dedication to soul music is disarming. It's an allegiance he documents in "Soul Education," a tune from the new album that includes the line, "I found a God I can pray to."

It's that testifying spirit that gives Jamiroquai's show its limited but undeniably seductive fervor.

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